Student Staff, Santa Clara University: Rainbow Resource Center
Most gay people say, “Being gay isn’t what defines me.” Me? I say it does, but with a twist. Growing up gay has defined my entire being: personality, faith, values, moral compass, relationships, my relationship with myself, etc. The difference is that my being gay is not the complete definition. I still have my personality, faith, values…. The largest part of my identity is a combination of my sexual and gender identity with my religion: Catholicism. Wait. What? Glen is gay and a practicing Catholic? Many people have been surprised by this over the years. I have often heard, “So which do you do better?” implying that I could not truly be both, that the two are mutually exclusive. While at the Parliament of the World’s Religions last fall I had heard comments like, “Oh, why are you still Catholic? You could join us (insert other religion or Christian denomination)! We love gays!” As well intentioned as the latter comment was, it still carried the same implication as that first question: you cannot be gay and Catholic. While on an immersion trip in Oakland during spring break my junior year, a Jesuit priest asked me, “Why would you commit to a Church that will cause you such pain? Why say yes to pain?” Now, his question did not carry that same negative implication; he was genuinely curious. It wasn’t till a few months later that I was able to answer his question: because this is the Church where I found God. Why would I leave that? Yes, I found Christ in my suffering growing up gay in Missouri. Yes, it would have been easier to leave the Catholic Church and to have joined a similar denomination (e.g., the Episcopalians). I would have definitely found a higher standard of acceptance, welcoming, and support there. But, I would not have formed the deeply contemplative relationship with God that I have today. My faith and sexual identity are bound together in a way where one cannot be fully understood independent of the other. In part, staying in the Catholic Church presents me opportunities–that are sometimes challenges–to better integrate my faith and personal identity as Glen. This is what I want to write about, taking Catholic social teaching and Ignatian (aka Jesuit) values and applying them to queer activism and social change. I would incorporate these into biblical reflections and responses to both issues within the Catholic Church and the queer community (e.g., finding Christ crucified in Matthew Shepard's death on a fence). My vocation is bringing the Church in closer communion to God by finding Christ in our community, identities, suffering and our hope.